Saturday, December 09, 2006

Steve Brewer on Hollywood, Fatherhood, and Why He Won't Wear a Gorilla Suit

Hi, Steve! Thanks for taking time out of the busy holiday season to chat about your books.

You always sign your letters with the postscript “Bubba Says Hey.” What makes Bubba so affable? Could it be his new movie deal for Lonely Street?
Bubba acts friendly in hopes that people might not notice what an incompetent doofus he happens to be. Bubba and I are both pretty chipper these days, since the move deal came through.

Speaking of Lonely Street, which was your first book—how did you happen to conceive of Bubba Mabry and the idea of writing mysteries about him?
I was a feature writer for the Albuquerque Journal, trying to write mysteries on the side, when I did a Sunday piece about old Route 66 and the neon-lit motels that still exist on East Central Avenue. Some of the those motels are "residential" now, and I started thinking about what kind of a private eye might choose to live in one. Not a very good one, for sure, or he could afford something nicer. So the bumbling private eye arose.

What’s the Hollywood set like? You don’t seem to have been traumatized by the process of going from book to film.
The process has been pretty pleasant for me. Lonely Street is being made into a film of the same name by independent film producers. The film's in post-production now, and should be out sometime in late 2007. They're making the movie on a shoestring budget, but have attracted some pretty big names – Jay Mohr, Robert Patrick, Joe Mantegna – for the cast. A lot of the movie was shot in the Los Angeles area, with some exterior work in Albuquerque. I visited the shoot for two days in September, while the film was on location at a big park in the San Fernando Valley. I'm a huge film buff, so it was a blast to watch the actors and crew in action. Actor/producer Kevin Chapman showed me some of the dailies, and I was really pleased by how the film looked.

The critics seem to be pleased with your latest effort, Monkey Man (which has a great cover). What came to you first for this seventh Bubba novel—the title, or the story?
The opening gambit came first – Bubba's sitting in a coffee shop with a potential client when a guy in a gorilla suit walks in and shoots the client in the head. The title was a natural. All the Bubba titles are from songs – Lonely Street, Baby Face, Dirty Pool, Crazy Love, etc – and I'm a big fan of the Rolling Stones, who recorded "Monkey Man" years ago.

How do you feel about the casting of Jay Mohr in the role of Bubba? Is he someone you would have chosen yourself?
I have to admit, Jay had never come to mind when I was thinking of who'd make a good Bubba. But he turns out to be great in the role. That was the thing that impressed me most about what I've seen of the film so far – Jay Mohr makes a terrific Bubba.

Is it odd seeing your fictional creation given a real life persona?
A little, but it helps that he's doing a good job with the role. If somebody was really screwing it up, maybe I'd feel differently about it. I was more freaked out the first time I heard the audiobook version of one of my novels. That voice, reading my words out of stereo speakers. Brrrr.

You’ve actually written a lot of books. Is writing your full time job? If so, has it always been?
Monkey Man is my 15th book. Writing is indeed my full-time job, and has been for the past ten years. I worked as a newspaper reporter from the time I was 18 years old until I was 40. The last 10 years of that time, I was trying to write fiction on the side. Around the time my fourth book hit the stores, I quit having a regular job. I still write a weekly humor column, "The Home Front", that runs in a lot of newspapers around the country.

How did you decide to write mysteries? Did you read them as a youth?
I was one of those kids who read everything in the town library, but for pleasure reading, I always preferred mysteries. Still do. When I decided to try to write fiction, I naturally gravitated toward crime. I was reading John D. MacDonald's books at the time, and those really inspired me.

If you found yourself in a bookstore with a little time on your hands, what would you look at? Would you necessarily gravitate to the mystery section, or do you enjoy reading other genres?
I always gravitate to the mystery section, partly to see which of my books they might have on the shelves. Plus, many of my friends are mystery writers, so I want to check out their books, too.

Since you would go to the mystery shelf, which authors would you visit first?
I'm always on the lookout for certain writers – Ross Thomas, Donald Westlake/Richard Stark, Elmore Leonard, Adam Hall. I think I've read all their books, but I keep my eyes peeled for more. Other authors I seek out: George Pelecanos, Ken Bruen, Pete Hautman, Sean Doolittle, Jason Starr, Duane Swierczynski, Sara Gran, Theresa Schwegel, Chuck Hogan, Jan Burke, Jess Walters, Mo Hayder. I prefer hard-boiled stories or those that have a lot of humor.

When I met you at Bouchercon, I realized you’re a very tall person. Is this ever disadvantageous when you’re touring? As in small plane seats, short hotel beds, little bookstores?
I'm six-foot-five and weigh close to 250. The size of your average modern NFL quarterback. However, quarterbacks tend to be V-shaped, while I'm shaped more like parentheses. I do get a little claustrophobic in crowds because I worry about bowling people over. Airplane seats are the worst problem. Once, it was purely a legroom issue. Now I need more room than most people in every direction.

Would you ever wear a gorilla suit to promote Monkey Man?
No. I've done most everything else to call attention to my books, but a guy's gotta draw the line somewhere.

Are they considering making a second Bubba movie? Would you want them to?
The same filmmakers are talking about making other Bubba movies (depending on how well Lonely Street does), or making one of my standalone crime novels, Bank Job or Boost or Whipsaw, into a movie. We'll see…

That must be nice to contemplate! What do you like to do in your leisure time?
I live in an area (Redding, Calif.) known for its outdoor attractions, but I'm mostly an indoorsman: Reading, poker, watching sports on TV, listening to music. I have two teen-age sons, who take up an inordinate amount of my time.

I can relate. They're time sponges. How can readers find out more about you, Bubba, the upcoming movie, etcetera?
My publisher set up a website for me: and there are some links there to movie and book news.

Thanks and good luck in Hollywood, Steve!


Anonymous said...

You've done it again, Julia. Another interesting and enjoyable interview!

Julia Buckley said...

Thanks, Neil! And how are things in Florida?

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